On This Day In Music History: John Lennon

The room where I teach is high ceilinged, so there is plenty of room for the large, framed picture of the Beatles that hangs on the wall over the blackboard.

The picture is actually a print of a black & white photograph taken by Rowland Scherman. It captures the Beatles on-stage and mid-song (my guess is: “All My Loving”) at the Washington Colliseum in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, February 11, 1964. In the picture, John Lennon stands on the right, playing his black Rickenbacker.

On an adjacent wall, there is a larger, also-framed, full-color poster that features the cover images from all 12 British-release Beatles albums. (This poster was produced in 1987 by Apple Corps, LTD.)

Given these two art works and the fact that I use several Beatles songs in my teaching, my guitar students are pretty quick to get the idea that I like the Beatles. So, inevitably, I am asked what my favorite Beatles’ song is.

For a good number of years, my answer was not a song, but an album (bands put out albums in those days, I point out), and I would name Rubber Soul. But lately, given some careful analysis of my listening habits and my performance repertoire (both solo and with the band, Merseyside, back in the early ’90’s), I’m going with the album A Hard Day’s Night.

This was the first album I bought on CD, the one I most often grab to play in the car or at home when I need guaranteed sing-along tunes. It is the album that contains the most Beatles songs that I’ve learned how to play.

It also contains a high percentage of “John” songs.

As you know, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were a songwriting team and all songs that they published as members of the Beatles bore the authorship line: Lennon & McCartney. But that doesn’t mean that they each paticipated equally in the creation of every song.

Early on, they wrote, as John put it: “nose to nose.” But as their career progressed, they would write individually and bring what they had to the other for comments and contributions. It was this inevitable auditioning of each writer’s songs to the other that made each of them want to have the best possible song or song idea ready when they made their “presentation” to their respective and respected bandmate.

I have a book: Beatlesongs (1989) by William J. Dowlding. The first part of its subtitle tells what it’s about: “Firsthand quotes, little-known facts and details about the production of each song/album, including: where song ideas came from; who contributed how much to each song… and much more.”

The author gives extensive details on each Beatles song and actually rates each song on a percentage system under “authorship,” giving full to partial song writing credit to John and/or Paul. For instance: “Eight Days A Week” is listed as: McCartney (.7) and Lennon (.3). “In My Life” is Lennon (.65) and McCartney (.35).

The album A Hard Day’s Night has 13 songs. Mr. Dowlding gives 10 of them completely (1.00) to John. Only one, “Things We Said Today” is given completely to Paul.

I cannot imagine my life or our world without the music of the Beatles. There would have been no Beatles without John Lennon, or to be fair, without Paul McCartney.

But today is the 70th anniversary of the birth of John Lennon.

He was born John Winston Lennon on October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England. He was the first and only child of Julia Stanley Lennon and Freddy Lennon. He was raised by his mother’s sister, Mimi, who bought him his first guitar when he was 16 years old.

He met Paul McCartney on July 6, 1957. (See my post from July 6, 2010.)

As I’ve done in past posts, I invite you to share your favorite Lennon & McCartney song or Beatles album (or memory or thought). Is you favorite a “John” song? Do you have a favorite song or album from John’s  post-Beatle solo work? All you have to do is click on “Leave a comment” below and send it off.

 John Lennon died on December 8, 1980 in New York City.

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11 Responses to On This Day In Music History: John Lennon

  1. Couldn’t resist a good read about my favorite band. Thanks for posting. My favorite album was Abbey Road, but I have the same issues with naming a favorite song. By Abbey Road era, the band was in throws of the bitter end, alas. Funny though, my very first purchased record (with my hard earned cash burning a hole in through my pocket) was Rubber Soul. Love it. Played it to death. My second purchase was Abbey Road. The rest followed over the years, both American press and British cuts, all on vinyl. My very first CD was Abbey Road, and I use it to this day as my sonic test for any new stereo gear to enter the house. John? Yep – my favorite. His cutting sense of humor, fast wit and total lack of caring for authority made good sense to me. Peace & Metta.

  2. Noreen Thompsen says:

    I vote for “In my Life” 🙂

  3. Tom Thompsen says:

    “A Day In The Life”. All time, hands down favorite. It always brings me back to where my feet are.

  4. Sydnee Goddard says:

    My favorite album is also Abbey Road, but my favorite song are Let it Be and Here Comes the Sun. Are those John songs?

  5. Jim Girard says:

    “I Saw Her Standing There” has to be mine. Musically, very simple, but great classic Rock ‘n ‘Roll. Best album is another story. Sgt. Peppers just blew me away. So very different from anything they did before. I remember listening to it over and over and trying to separate it, and understand what they were doing. It was a far cry from “Love Me Do”. Its one I never never get tired of. Happy Birthday, John.

  6. Sally Spero says:

    My favorite song is Blackbird. I could hear it a million times and never get tired of its beauty and simplicity.

  7. Layne Case says:

    Boy…this sure brings back lots of fond memories. I remember in 6th grade, Joan Bonacorso playing the guitar and singing Norweign Wood. I didn’t really understand the song but I loved the music, and always wanted to play guitar. I also remember earlier than that dancing at recess to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. “Michelle”…my first attempt at singing in a foreign language. I wasn’t sure what I was saying but it was so beautiful. One song? Sorry, I can’t do it!

  8. Brandon Musitano says:

    One of my favorite songs by John is “Mind Games.” The following link is to a video I just watched, “Give Peace A Chance,” another famous song of his. The video shows anti-war protests in the early 70’s. My father had the 45 and told me it was a very popular song. The flip side had a well meaning but politically incorrect title by today’s standards.
    Happy 70th John!

    http://new.music.yahoo.com/plastic-ono-band/videos/view/give-peace-a-chance–49620936

  9. ADS says:

    The first record album I ever owned was “Meet The Beatles” followed closely by “The Beatles’ Second Album” (or maybe vice versa, but I was 10 and that was a long time ago). Choosing my favorite Beatles song means playing “Drop The Needle” on my childhood. Would it be my favorite from age 10 when I sang/screamed/jumped along with “She Loves You?” Or maybe 7 years later “It Won’t Be Long” was my favorite singing/screaming/drinking/dancing at the clandestine-parties-in-the-GPC-woods Beatles song. The best song would be the one that reached deep down inside me with that Beatles magic. My favorite songs at age 10 fed me differently at age 17, but they fed me just the same.

    No, I also can’t imagine a world without the Beatles or my childhood without them to lift me up. But contrary to many girls my age at the time, I wasn’t screaming for the Beatles themselves. [I rallied against the popular trend of proclaiming Paul the “cute one.” (I mean, really) My Beatles doll was George as I felt he was often overlooked.] I was head over heals for the melody, the beat and the simple lyrics that my young mind could grab on to. I filled up with their infectious happy energy. And as I got older, their music changed with me; getting more serious, more introspective.

    “Hey Jude” was released right before I started high school and it is this song in particular that stands out in my mind today. The raw emotion, the pleading, the “make it bettah, Bettah, BETTAH….” —- oh yeah, that one is up there on my list. I remember high school dances when the band would start singing…..Hey Jude…..don’t make it bad….take a sad song……. Nervous boys finally leap to their feet, asking the girls to slow dance, sweaty palms and all. The darkened cafeteria dance floor fills with swaying teenagers all singing perfectly together…na na na na..nananana….. for seven minutes or more. That must be my favorite Drop The Needle Beatles song moment. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

  10. TPS says:

    Beatle songs made up the soundtrack of my life for many years. To this day, I don’t believe that any band comes close to the level of creativity put forth in such a short time.

    My faves? “Hey Jude”, “I Am The Walrus”, “Helter Skelter”,
    “Medley” (Abby Road).

  11. TPS says:

    John Lennon’s death, for me, is one of those dates in your life where you remember where you were, what you were doing, when you first heard the news. Like the Kennedy Asassination, MLK, 9/11. I remember I was driving to work. Upon hearing the news I remember being overcome with emontion and had to pull off the road, to cry, then collect myself for the day’s work. I still get teary at times when I hear “Imagine”. John Lennon WAS Rock ‘n Roll, and the world missed out on what would have been decades more of the brilliant songwriting and performing style that was his and his alone.

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